The Goddess Weighs In

Living Large and Healthy

Missing Some S’Notes

on September 21, 2012

My friend Vicki and her husband Sean are foodies.  While I like food, I don’t get terribly excited about a lot of things and often I find foods like garden fresh tomatoes have an earthy taste, similar, to me at least, to the smell of potting soil.  I also find a lot of things smell kind of like potting soil. Vicki and I have joked for years that I am missing some “S’Notes”.  Like a singer who can’t sing every note in a range, imagine that one’s taste of smell is like notes in a scale and I am missing some of those notes or “S’Notes”.  Up until now this has just been a joke between the two of us when she sees my nose crinkle when smelling a fine wine or tasting a dish which everyone else is swooning over.  This morning however, I found this: http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/20/study-obese-kids-have-less-sensitive-taste-buds/

According to a new study obese children have more difficulty discerning the difference between and the intensity of flavours. It’s not clear as yet which comes first the weight gain or the lower taste-bud responsiveness, but clearly there is a correlation.  According to the online article, sensitivity to the hormone leptin, which is associated with hunger, fat storage and the ability to taste sweet things, may be reduced in obese people and they may become less sensitive to its daily cycles.  It may also be related to insulin levels which can be higher in some obese people.  If the insulin levels are elevated for long periods of time, this could weaken the receptors to the hormone which may be responsible for reduced taste sensitivity.

According to the article previous studies have found that people with more sensitive taste buds eat less in general.  I suspect that my friend Carol Ann must have extremely sensitive taste buds as she can suddenly stop eating something and when you ask her why she will tell you it’s because she has had enough of that taste.  I can tell you with great certainty that this has never happened to me.  If the first bite was good so will the 100th be, so I just keep motoring.  But it seems she may be on to something.

The authors of the study suggest that obesity-prevention strategies should focus on mindful eating and taste preferences rather than on counting calories. I went to a yoga retreat in October 2010 and we were taught about mindful eating.  We had a vegan breakfast of cooked teff cooked with currants and maple syrup and a little more on top, fruit salad, toast and fruit juice.  We were always welcome to eat as much or as little as we wanted, but at this meal we were asked to think about what we were eating.  We were asked to keep completely quiet, we were not to interact with other attendees for that meal and we were to think about each mouthful. We were to roll the food around in our mouths to identify the taste and texture of each bite and to be mindful of whether or not we were full.  It was a long, quiet breakfast, but two mouthfuls into my second bowl of teff I felt full.  This may not seem that exciting to most, but it was the first time in my life that I could recall, that I had been able to sense full (prior to getting my CPAP a year later).  Typically I experienced hunger and extreme, uncomfortable over fullness. Finding full was just this side of mind blowing to me.

After the breakfast we were debriefed and while some of us had been thinking about the taste and texture of the food some were actually thinking about the food’s origins and how far it had travelled to reach our breakfast table and some were thinking about personal memories that the tastes and textures recalled for them. Regardless it was a powerful experience for many of us and we tried to varying degrees to be more mindful of our eating throughout the weekend.

I’m not so sure that small children will have great epiphanies while rolling their Cheerios about in their mouths, but I do certainly think that by limiting distractions at meal time we may help them become more aware of their food choices.

– the Goddess

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